Under the Care of Children Act 2004, guardians (usually this is the parents) of a child must consult and agree on all guardianship issues. This includes any travel for the child or changes to where they live, before they go anywhere. If the guardians cannot agree, then an application can be made to the Family Court for a Judge to decide.
However there is nothing to physically stop a child being removed without consent, and so it is important that you act fast if you are concerned about this. Available steps include:
- Keeping hold of your child’s passport
- Applying for an Order Preventing Removal
- Registering a Border Alert through Interpol (which stops the child from boarding any aircraft or ship)
Keep in mind that having possession of the passport alone may not be enough. The consent of only one parent is required on a child’s New Zealand passport application, and so a new passport could be issued without your knowledge.
Depending on the circumstances, it can be possible to obtain both an Order Preventing Removal and Border Alert on the same day that you apply.
It is advisable to get expert legal advice from a family lawyer when dealing with these issues, to ensure that any applications to the Family Court are properly evidenced and comply with the procedural requirements.
What if a child has already been removed?
The process of having children returned can be lengthy and difficult, depending on which country they are in.
New Zealand is a signatory to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which is an international treaty aimed to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained overseas, and to ensure that the laws of custody/access in the child’s normal place of residence are respected. However, the Convention can only be used if the child has been taken to another signatory country. The return process can be much more difficult and expensive if a child is taken to a non-signatory country.
What if a child is removed to another part of New Zealand?
It is possible to get directions from the Court to prevent a child from being taken to another part of the country without consent, or to apply for their return if they have already been removed. Depending on the circumstances, the Court can order an immediate return.
For more information about changing where a child lives, see our Relocation of Children article.